By Lorna Shannon
Samba Colorado is a strong community made up of new and experienced dancers and musicians who come together to share their joy, passion, trials and challenges, with the intention of celebrating one another’s light and spirit. While everything has moved out of the studios and onto virtual platforms due to the CO-Vid 19 pandemic and social distancing the Samba Colorado community and the movement and arts communities at large continue to provide safe spaces for sharing our inner worlds and uplifting one another. Samba Colorado is love, family, and support. We move forward together knowing we all have each other’s backs. Now, as shows are being reconfigured and rescheduled, we are coming together and working hard as a collective to keep making beautiful art together to share with the world.
What makes this community so special is how people from so many different backgrounds come together and find something healing in this type of movement training. Longtime company member Alba Gonzales has been dancing with Samba Colorado since 2013, the year Artistic Director, Kebrina Josefina De Jesus started the company. Alba shared her insights and experiences of coming into this community during its beginning stages. “I have a strong admiration for Brazilian culture and I’ve always wanted to learn how to dance samba,” she says. Alba saw Kebrina perform in 2013 and loved her elegant and classy dance style. She started taking samba classes with Kebrina the very next day and hasn’t looked back. “It has helped me stay active in a fun and artistic way! The strong community is without a doubt the highlight of my connection. It also brings me closer to my late father, who is the reason why I admire Brazilian Culture so much. It allows me to connect with him (spiritually) on a level that is very hard to explain.”
Learning and understanding the roots, where these movements come from, and finding our own way, our own interpretation, our own story within the dance is a powerful experience. When we approach the movement from this perspective we remember, as Master Teacher Aninha Malandro recently conveyed while teaching a class at the Utah Samba Queen, that we all come from somewhere, we all have ancestors. We honor them and find healing by taking risks, evolving and owning our samba, and dancing our fullest selves.
“Kebrina’s approach to teaching a dance that is not a direct culture of her heritage is pure and authentic because she respects it so,” Alba continues. “I admire that within her teachings she does not sexualize or commercialize the dance that is often portrayed as vulgar. Samba Colorado is unique because you learn the history of the dance. Kebrina takes the time to explain the stories behind the movements. She teaches how important it is to honor the ancestors and the origins of the most seemingly simple movement and footwork. It’s incredible to witness and I’m proud to be part of something great!”
Israel Jimenez, drummer in the Denver instrumental rock band Altas, joined Samba Colorado as an ensemble dancer in 2019 after his interest was piqued that there was a Brazilian Samba school in Colorado. “I have had an appreciation for Brazilian music since I could remember, so it was a great way to learn more via dance,” he says. “Samba Colorado stands out for its deep roots approach to Brazilian Dance, plus its community outreach. Kebrina, with her extensive training, has harnessed different styles and presents it in a manner that captivates the novice dancer.”
Jenna Clark, a fitness instructor who spent time dancing in a samba company in Utah years ago, made her way to our weekly classes this past summer, and joined the company in the fall of 2019. “With Samba Colorado you can lose yourself to the music (or live drums – my favorite) and really connect in a spiritual way. It’s so organic and each class is inspired by what Kebrina may have done or felt that day. I’m always amazed that 99.9% of the time it’s exactly what my mind and body needed as well. It’s about the journey, not the perfection of the steps or the height of your abilities. It’s very much come as you are and let’s see where we can go – together. It’s about the community and the passion. It’s about the heritage, the history, and how it makes you feel. It gives you a great sense of connection.”
And connection is exactly what we all need right now. Throughout all the craziness of these times Samba Colorado continues to be a safe, open, accepting space for creative expression through movement for all bodies, all gender expressions, and all levels of dance experience. Kebrina can take any beginner with no experience and have them dancing, smiling, and sweating within minutes. Dancers in the Samba Colorado company and ensemble choose their path forward, and Kebrina meets them where they are, playing on their strengths. She builds her students’ confidence in themselves and helps them believe that they can do anything they set their mind to and work hard for. It takes a lot of courage to start something new, and Samba Colorado is a wonderful community to do that in. No matter how long you’ve been dancing for, the classes and ensemble are always a welcoming environment. There is a path for everyone. Start your dance journey today.